The vehicle, which is equipped with an electric powertrain based on Audi’s e-tron tech used in its “normal” electric vehicle programs, was developed by Audi in partnership with a group of engineers participating in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, a unique challenge to land a privately-funded rover on the moon’s surface, drive 500 meters and send back pictures to earth.
The Berlin-based engineering group is called “Part-Time Scientists,” and they announced a deal yesterday with Spaceflight Inc. — basically a ride-sharing company for rockets — to get a space on one of the company’s flights by the end of 2017. The group announced that the 385,000 km trip to the Moon is expected to be completed with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
Part-Time Scientists focused on building ALINA, an autonomous landing and navigation module, which will be used to land the rover on the moon. The rover itself was developed jointly with Audi. The German automaker assigned a group of 16 Audi experts to develop the vehicle.
It will carry not one but two rovers in order to minimize the risks of breakage. Audi was recently able to reduce the weight of the vehicle from 38 to 30 kilograms. ALINA can deliver a payload of up to 100kg to the surface of the moon.
If they are both functional after landing, it will also offer the opportunity for Audi to arrange for the rovers to take pictures of each other, which would be a great marketing opportunity – like capturing a real version of the renderings on the moon below.
The mission will land in the Valley of Taurus-Littrow, where the rover from the Apollo 17 mission is located. Part-Time Scientists will attempt to take pictures of the rover. If they succeed, they stand to earn more than $30 million from the Google Lunar XPRIZE. Of the 30 original challengers, Part-Time Scientists is one of five teams still in the race to head off for the moon.